DiCaprio, director reunite to bring ‘Gatsby’ to life

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DiCaprio, director reunite to bring ‘Gatsby’ to life

LOS ANGELES - Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann brings to life F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel, “The Great Gatsby” which opens in U.S. theaters today before unspooling at the Cannes Film Festival on May 15. The film reunites Luhrmann with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, with whom he last worked on the big screen adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo + Juliet” in 1996.

Luhrmann, 50, spoke to Reuters about working with DiCaprio and his collaboration with rapper Jay-Z on the film’s soundtrack.

Q. What was the difference between working with DiCaprio on “Romeo + Juliet” some 15 years ago and “The Great Gatsby” now?

A. Back then, he was very gifted, but he was a boy. Now he is a man and true partner in creativity. He’s been on film sets since he was a child and so he’s only ever known film culture. He knows what is a waste of time and where to put the energy. He’s extremely exigent.

How so?

He was as much a producer of this movie, as much a co-writer - he and Tobey Maguire had me in our writing tent until 3 in the morning when we had to be shooting at 7a.m. - going round and round on material. I loved it and it’s some of my greatest memories [from the shoot] but it also nearly killed me.

How did you like working with Jay-Z on the soundtrack?

This is a man who is serially on time. If he says he’s going to be somewhere at 9 p.m., he doesn’t arrive at five to nine, or five past nine. He arrives at nine. We worked closely on the music, literally together.

How did you hook up with him?

Leonardo said, “Come up to the Mercer (Hotel in Manhattan) and meet Jay.” He was recording “No Church In the Wild” and I talked to him about the film. He was one of the first people to see a rough cut of the movie. He said, “Look, it’s inspirational. It’s about is Jay Gatsby a good man or not? Does he have a moral compass? Does he have a cause? Do those born into money know a world that has moral elasticity? Do they have a purpose?” Fantastic debate, fantastic engagement.

It’s hard to picture someone like Jay-Z sitting around reading “The Great Gatsby” since he’s always on the go.

You want to see something amazing? Google ‘Gatsby’ on YouTube and see how many African-American kids are rapping about being Jay Gatsby. There must be 1,000 videos. It’s amazing to see these kids really get that character. Some of the raps are awesome.

Will viewers relate to this film?

I think they’ll talk about it. Whether they like my choices or not, whether they think I desecrated the great holy grail of American literature or not, I think they will have to be part of the conversation. Somehow, it is a great reflector for everyone. Reuters
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